Family Pictures

I didn't want to splash these all over social media and give away the Christmas card surprise, but now that cards have come and gone, check out the family pictures we had taken recently. It was just supposed to be a 11x14 framed family picture for 25 bucks as part of a school fundraiser, but those sneaky photographers know what they're doing and once I saw all the shots, I knew I had to buy the whole lot. It's been awhile since I got a good family shot so I had to take advantage!


Christmas Picture Dump

Dressed up for the Christmas Eve service. 
Brought our own safety candles!
Santa through the years (Annie flat-out refused this year).

Christmas morning play.

Santa brought a bike!

Silly faces at Grandma's house.

The Pigeon activity book.

Hours (seriously, hours) spent cutting paper.
Getting the band back together - presenting "Loafman"!

Twinkle Lights

Enjoying the lights (and the fact that I have a firm grip on both children). 

Every year we try to plan a little something fun to do when Matt's family is in town. In the past, we've visited the High Museum, the World of Coke, had fancy dinners downtown... but the age of my children has put a damper on sophisticated outings and forced us to look for something a little more family friendly. We figured seeing the Botanical Gardens all lit up might do the trick.

Several things I did not anticipate, however. It was really dark. (Okay, I knew it would be going in, but still.) It was REALLY crowded. It was two days post-Christmas, but I guess everyone wanted to take one last shot at the holiday spirit. Plus, it was such a mild night and actually NOT raining, so the entire city of Atlanta probably wanted to seize the opportunity to get some fresh air. But the crowds were seriously Disney World caliber. And finally, the third part of the disaster trifecta, was Annie's determination to not set butt in her stroller. Oh no, my friends, this child was going to walk. And run. Squeezing through people's legs and darting through my fingertips and running into the vast, uncontained spaces of the Garden. I was so busy keeping my eyes on her, it was hard to look up and actually admire the lights. It was enough to make me want to cancel our figurative future trip to Disney. When we finally forcibly strapped her into her stroller, Annie spent the rest of the visit straining at the straps and demanding "let me out!" to anyone in earshot.

So fun!


But really, it was nice to be outside. And it was very pretty. And sending the kids home with Grandma and Grandpa so we could have a calm, adult dinner made it worth it.

The reflection of a tree in a dark pool... very trippy.

The actual tree, against the dark night sky.

This mesmerizing display of lights set to music kept Annie still for a good three minutes - win!


Merry Christmas!

It's a Wonderful Life!

The Loughman Family

Christmas Eve

Watching Home Alone for the first time... but certainly not the last! 
We always celebrate Christmas Eve with the Fortunato side of the family, and this year we rocked it as we usually do. Presents were opened, food was consumed, merriment was made, and to all a good night!

Uncle Lukas came through with the best gift of the night... watch out boys! Violet is armed!
 This year we tried to do our traditional opening of the gifts - one at a time, youngest to oldest, plenty of time to ooh and ahh inbetween. Yeah, my girls are not the right age for it. It quickly spiraled into "let the girls open everything and start playing so the rest of us can take a turn!" which ended up working out fine. My mom and I combined forces to cook dinner, with most things made ahead of time, resulted in a fairly stress-free event.

Toy time.

Hello Gus.
After a decent night's sleep (Mimi was under strict instructions not to let the munchkins downstairs before 6 a.m.) we spent a low-key Christmas Eve, all culminating in our evening church service where both Matt and Lukas are taking the stage. Just have to remember to put out the cookies and carrots for Santa and his crew! Merry Christmas, everyone!


Breakfast antics.


Real jammin.

Nailed it.

Another Christmas Eve in the books!


Make Like a Tree...

It's a testament to how busy we've been this December that I just dug through my phone and these were pretty much the only pictures I've taken since Thanksgiving. Whoops! It's that time of year again. But the house is decorated, the cards have (mostly) been sent, the shopping is almost done, and in three days I'll be on holiday break! Three insane days filled with Snowman Parties grade level gift exchanges and Polar Express and grades and report cards and generally just surviving the craziness, but three days nonetheless.

So we had major drama with our tree this year. Honestly, it probably deserves its own post, but let's face it, I'll be lucky if this one even makes it out. So after our lovely Thanksgiving break, we were determined to end our time off with our tree. The past couple years we've had great success at a store that Shall Not Be Named but rhymes with Ike's. One nice thing about this said store is that the tree have tree stands already on them, and if you buy one, you can return it in January for store credit. So essentially - free tree stand!

Well, we went to our usual Ike's location, but none of the trees in our budget were any good. So we took our whining children home, dumped them on the neighbors, and set out for the other Ike's location. This time we found a great tree! Mind you, it was way bigger and fatter than we were planning on, but honestly I was just happy to pick one out. We waited foreeeeever to get the thing put on the car, but finally we had it home. The girls majorly stressed me out trying to "help" decorate it, but finally it was done, just in time for bedtime. Then we headed back to school after our break.

Usually I immediately forget to water the Christmas trees, but this year I was on it, giving that sucker all the water it wanted. Then on Tuesday as I knelt down to water the tree again, I realized that the towels we had place it on were wet. Completely soaked through wet. That stupid "free" tree stand had a leak!

So, friends, what do you do with a completely decorated tree sitting on a leaking tree stand? Options we really thought of:

a) try to lift the tree from the top while someone unscrews the tree stand at the bottom

b) take a saw to the tree trunk just above the tree stand

c) undecorate the entire tree once the girls go to bed, tip the tree in order to catch the excess water in a bucket, lay the tree down on the coffee table, unscrew the fj*$! tree stand, put a new stand on, attempt to tip the tree back onto its feet, silently curse the now broken branches and giant holes, redecorate the entire tree with decidedly less holiday spirit than the first time

So it's safe to say that while the tree is up and standing again, I feel no emotional connection to this thing. I'll just be happy if it stays upright through the holidays.

Gonna try to recapture the joy.

Run Run Rudolph!

Keeping it classy.

Winter Wonderland


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This year I'm thankful for the usual suspects: my family, my girls, the security of having a roof over my head and food on the table and a job to go to every week.

I'm also particularly thankful for the 2.5 kid-free days Matt and I just spent together, courtesy of our loving parents who put up with our children. Without the rascals in tow, Matt and I got to go out to dinner, catch a movie, roam around town, sit in coffee shops, do some advance Christmas shopping, paint the laundry room (which has now led me to visions of new floors, shelves, decor, lighting for said laundry room... oops), haul all the decorations out of the attic, and just generally enjoy some quiet time together. It's been nice to catch up.


Paint and Partake Part Two

Step by step (ooh baby!)

Every so often, our school's art teacher decides to put up with a bunch of grown ups for a little art class we like to call Paint and Partake. We gather, eat, drink, and make our way over to the blank canvases. You may remember the last time I went to such an event. Well, this time we weren't tackling some free-form peacock... oh no. This time we were tasked with some straight up artistic work. Intimidating to be sure, but our calm and steady art teacher was confident in our abilities.

This piece involved a lot more penciling in than last time, a lot more layering of colors. But by golly, it looks like a horse! So much fun, I'm ready to sign up for the next session and start a little gallery in my home somewhere.

Not bad!

So proud of ourselves.

Love how different they all turned out, just like us.


And to Live by the Girl Scout Law

Getting pinned.

I'm really digging our Daisy Troop. On Friday the girls learned a new song, said their Girl Scout promise, and planted a little garden that they will be responsible for watering and caring for the rest of the year. (I'm also digging our awesome troop leader who is way more organized than I could ever be or hope to be. So thankful she is giving our girls such an awesome experience. I basically just show up and sing along!)

Planting the seeds.
At each meeting, every girl has a different role to play. Even with five-year-olds, the meetings get to be "girl-led". Violet was in charge of watering the plants on Friday; other girls got to help with line leading, clean up, starting the pledge, etc. I really like that they are getting a sense of responsibility. As they get older in the program, they will take on more and more of the leadership roles and make decisions about what activities take place. For our little Daisies, they got to decide when to eat snack (first, obviously) but I can see how even the little things are laying the groundwork for bigger things ahead.

Caring for the plants.

We earned some patches!


For the Birds

Last night Annie was in particular rare form. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth and not even Matt the Baby Whisperer could get her down without a fight. The adults collapsed on the couch around nine too exhausted to even talk to each other, and I was asleep before we got halfway through the episode of whatever we were watching.

So it was with certain dread that I woke up to Annie's frantic screaming. Again. This child has GOT to sleep through the night. But on this particular evening, she was nuts. Wailing, thrashing, throwing herself out of our arms. I tried holding her, Matt tried picking her up, girlfriend was insane.

Sometimes taking her outside will calm her down, snap her out of her crazy and get her to stop screaming long enough to listen to our soothing, zen-like voices desperately bargaining her back to dreamland. So Matt decided to give it a shot. He opened the door and stepped outside...

... just as two winged shapes darted inside and start fluttering black wings in circles over my head. I froze as my brain took an extra 20 seconds to process what had just happened. Bats? Some belated Halloween joke gone awry? Not a minute later Matt cautiously opened the door again, holding a now mercifully silent Annie. "Did a bird just fly in here?" he asked, sounding just as gobsmacked as I'm sure I looked, with my mouth hanging open, frozen in the foyer.

So apparently two birds had taken up residence in the lovely burlap wreath on my door and Matt opening the door scared them enough that the poor things flew into the house. But there wasn't even time to think that process through, because before either of us could formulate a plan for how to evict these nighttime visitors, our cat took matters into his own paws. And jaws. One bird down. I grabbed Annie and took her to our hopefully bird-free bedroom while Matt chased Gus, who quickly let go of the bird. Bird flew off. Gus got locked in the bathroom. Tiny feathers rained down like an old-school pillow fight scene.

Two birds, loose in the house. We reacted, even as our brains tried to process what was happening. We walked around, flicking lights, clapping hands, hoping to scare them into giving away their location. I cleaned poop off the interior front door. There was no sign of our invaders. Then suddenly, a black shadow whirling overhead. One was upstairs. Matt shooed it into the bonus room, opened the window, did a crazy blanket flapping dance, and the bird escaped. One down, one to go.

We started checking under furniture, on top of bookshelves. Was it the bird Gus attacked? Was it injured? Should we let Gus out to finish the job? These were the desperate questions of the severely sleep deprived, over-adrenilinated parents who could not even fathom what was happening. "One day this will be funny," I remember remarking. This wasn't that day. Not yet.

Upstairs, Matt suddenly ducked as wings thudded past. He rapidly closed doors, narrowing the bird's options. I was suddenly very thankful Annie wasn't up in her bed yet, as the bird took the only escape route left, the one that led straight into her whirring ceiling fan. Oops. Stunned bird, on the ground. Matt wasted no time throwing a blanket over it, scooping it up and tossing it out the window, where it landed on the roof. And stayed there. A brief debate followed: was it dead? Injured? Going to be there when we woke up? The feathers continued to drift down like snow. We decided we didn't really care; it was over.

And then at 3:30 Violet came downstairs to announce she had just thrown up all over her bed. The fun never stops around here!

Girl Scouts

Violet is a Daisy! We had our first meeting after school on Friday and it was perfect. I was never in Girl Scouts, but it is one of those things I always hoped my girls would do and enjoy. She knows a couple girls in the troop already, and I know the troop leader because I taught two of her daughters in previous years. I think it's going to be a good little group. My hope is that they all become great friends and it will help Violet build a network of friends outside her classroom friends. I got to do the mom thing and sew on her patches and it is interesting to get to watch Violet interacting with friends and other adults. Since I'm here at the school, it will be easy for me to volunteer for the meetings and get to know the other families. Hopefully this is the start of an awesome Girl Scout journey!

Girl Scout sisters!

Our Troop!

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